How to Free Yourself From the Clip Chart

Happy Tuesday, folks! It's time for another blog talk topic as part of my "Teacher Talk Tuesdays." Every Tuesday will have a topic and I'm encouraging EVERYONE - blogger or non-blogger! - to share ideas.

Last week was the first Tuesday of the month, so the topic was classroom community. If you missed that post, you can click {HERE} to hop over and read some great ideas for developing classroom community during the first few weeks of school. This week's trending topic is classroom management.

There has been a LOT of talk lately about different ways to work on behavior management. Some teachers like using a clip chart, others prefer Class Dojo or brag tags.... The important thing is not WHAT you are using, but HOW it works in your classroom.  Is your system working? Is what you are doing changing the behavior of your students for the better? If you feel it is, then great! Keep doing what you're doing! But I challenge you to ask yourself this: Are the same kids always the ones getting the positive rewards, while the same 2-4 kids don't ever seem to succeed? If the answer is yes, you may want to rethink your system.

I decided not to do a clip chart this year. I used one for a few years, but I never really liked it. Not only did I not like how public it was (and I even went to individual clip charts at their seats), but mainly I wasn't seeing positive results. The kiddos who would behave and make good choices no matter what always were at the top of the chart, while the students who had difficulty always seemed to struggle. (And if you want to read a really awesome post about a completely different way to use a clip chart to reinforce good character, check out Sarah's ideas over at There's No Place Like Second Grade.)

So what system did I decide to use this year? Nothing. That's right, nothing. No clip chart, no Class Dojo, nothing. I decided to go back to what worked for me every year before I started the clip chart (because everyone else was doing it :-). I never had a "formal" behavior system for the whole class. And I rarely had major behavior issues. "Those" students were often placed in my class for that reason. (NOTE: I think it's important to say that I am fortunate to work in a district where there are very few students with major behavior issues. Yes, I always had the 3-4 kids who needed more attention in this department, but I looked at it like this: some kids need more support in reading or math, these kids needed more support with making good choices. But if you work in a classroom setting where managing behavior takes up a good part of your day, you may need something more structured IN ADDITION TO what I'm going to suggest. And this is where Sarah's post might come in handy!)

What's my secret? Here are my top ideas on which my classroom management philosophy is built.

This is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of successful classroom management. I read a great book a while ago called, What Great Teachers Do Differently.  The biggest takeaway I had from this book was the idea that a great teacher is PROactive, instead of REactive. A great teacher thinks about how to help students be successful beforehand. S/he anticipates all the little things that could go wrong and plans for them ahead of time. A "reactive" teacher waits until the lesson or activity has started, and then reacts to what happens at the time.  Think about that for a minute. Imagine you are planning a lesson that requires Johnny to choose a partner. You know that working cooperatively is difficult for him. What do you do? Do you wait until an issue arises and deal with it then, all along knowing this is not going to go well? Or do you think about it ahead of time and put something in place so Johnny has more of a chance of being successful? Do your students have difficulty lining up? Do they all want to be first? Set up a plan! Great teachers have a routine and a procedure for EVERYTHING because we are proactive. Take that idea even further and apply it to other parts of the day and other areas. And yes, sometimes you just don't plan for everything. You can't anticipate it all. But you can use what happens one time to fix it this next time. 
This is up there with being proactive as the number one part of having successful classroom management. Students who feel that they are part of a community, who are invested in their learning and the leaning of those around them, will WANT to make good choices. They will WANT to help others and be part of everything that goes on. Take the time at the beginning of the year, before you dive into academics, to get to know your students. Learn about them, connect with them and help them connect with others in the class. I guarantee this will have a tremendous impact on the rest of your year.
I KNOW you do this one all. the. time. Especially at the beginning of the year. But I suggest you think about taking it one step further. Don't model just procedures and rules. Want students to write 3 things in the box on their paper? Model it! Looking for your kiddos to interview each other for a getting to know you activity? Model it! Show them EXACTLY what you want the writing/discussion/picture to look like. I guarantee you, even if you think it is obvious to write in that box on the paper, there's at least one student who is thinking the writing should go somewhere else. By modeling, you give students an example of what you want - and clear up confusion you probably didn't even know existed! You can model by doing things as a whole group, fishbowl so a small group is doing while the others are watching, put up an example... whatever works for your students and for the activity you are doing.
Ok, so you've modeled. And you've thought ahead. But Jillian is STILL building a tower with the place value blocks while you're trying to teach. Now what? This is where logical consequences come in.  I do not believe in taking away recess as a consequence. For pretty much anything. I find that the kids who are losing recess are the ones who NEED recess, and standing on the wall, or doing laps or whatever doesn't change their behavior. They still are talking while I'm talking. They are still not bringing in their homework. That's because the consequence has no connection to the behavior. Is Jillian playing with the blocks? Move them away until she needs them to complete her work. Are Louise and Susan spending the time talking about their sleepover instead of buddy reading? They lose the privilege of being partners for now. Logical consequences come in 3 kinds: (1) you break it, you fix it; (2) loss of privilege, and (3) time out. You can read more about the Responsive Classroom approach for more details on how logical consequences work.)
This is without a doubt, the toughest one to do. You have to mean what you say - and follow through. I always shake my head when I hear teachers saying, "I've told you 5 times not to talk in the hallways. If it happens again, we're going back." Say it once. And then act on it. ALL. THE. TIME. Kids know right away when you're not going to follow though on what you say. It wastes their time - and your time. Keep the consequences logical, but make sure you use them. And use them fairly. Remember - fair does not always mean equal, and I tell this to my students all the time.
(Alissa Prendergast @
Have some fun! This can be a simple as adding chants and cheers to your day. A simple high-five and a smile can mean everything. Positive words and praise are powerful. Remember to be specific. "Great job!", no matter how well-intentioned, doesn't tell that students (or anyone else) what s/he did well.  Instead try, "Nice job using rock-paper-scissors to solve that problem."  or "Way to go, Scott! I saw you try different ways to solve that problem without giving up!" This would be the time to use brag tags, reward coupons, lottery tickets, marbles in the jar.... whatever way you choose to reinforce positive choices. I don't give students a reward card every time they make a good choice - that's what they are expected to do! But I do give them out enough so those students who always make good choices do get rewarded, and those who might need more support have a chance to earn them, as well.
All right, now. What are you thinking? Which parts of this do you already do in your classroom? What new ideas do you have that work well for you? I want to hear from you! Teachers have so many great ideas to share and very often the best ideas we use are ones that came from another teacher! So... if you're a blogger and you have a post about classroom management (new or old), link up below. (And if you know someone who has a great post, ask them to link up, too!) If you're not a blogger, share your ideas in the comments. (Just click below my name with the froggy where it says "3 comments" or whatever and share your ideas!) Let's make this a conversation about great classroom management strategies. I will respond to every comment, so let's start talking, sharing and connecting! 

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  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I have a clip chart and have been going back and forth all summer as to whether or not I should get rid of it. I just don't see the benefits in it. You mentioned coupons or brag tags, may you please share a quick list of the exact positive reinforcements you use in your classroom? What are your thoughts on using a small behavior card for each student? Such as earning a sticker or initial for great behavior each day and then getting a treat when they are full? I want to make sure I have something to share with parents when they ask if we have a behavior program. Thanks!

    1. Hi Brittney! Thanks for sharing your ideas! We use paws (school-wide program) and I also am starting brag tags this year - but that's not something they earn daily. I think if you have to have a program and need to be accountable to parents to show data, then yes, you need something that tracks behavior. Your rewards could be simple like being line leader, bringing in a book to share, etc.

  2. Everything you've said here resonates with me. I've had a clip chart for 5 years, but I think I'm done with it. Instead of promoting community, it seems to create competition in my class. I'm still struggling with how to approach my classroom management this year, and time is running out!

  3. I don't have my own classroom yet but I notice that many districts require you to use a clip chart. Some even require a specific one. I tend to dislike them for the reasons you said plus that I find they give a teacher more work to no effect. So how would you make the best of having to use one as I might.

  4. Good question! For me, one of the biggest issues was with the public nature of the clip chart. I have had students who have needed a visual reminder of their behavior. For these kiddos, I make a small chart (I print 4 to a page) that I laminate and keep in their desk. This way it's more private, but the student still has the visual. Instead of verbally asking them to clip up or down, we have a signal I use.

  5. What are your suggestions for those students who don't turn in homework? I would keep them in at recess.

  6. This is really a nice and informative, containing all information and also has a great impact on the new technology. Check it out here:Double homework


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